Being focused is great. Determination to find your way on a path, also great—and necessary. But it is important to keep an open mind as you work toward a goal—to allow yourself room to grow and to grant yourself permission to change that goal.
This was something I did, for the first time, throughout my undergrad degree. A question I was frequently asked was “what are you going to do with it?” The more I was asked, the more I was okay with saying, “I don’t know yet, one step at a time.” And, I didn’t know. I knew I wanted something more, and I knew this degree was a step closer to whatever that more might be. I knew a few things that definitely were not the more I was after, but even then I didn’t close the door until I took a course and really tested myself in that environment first.
I found it extremely beneficial to keep my options open, and, after a time, I grew more comfortable with admitting I didn’t know. Working through the degree this way, I found career options that I didn’t know existed. I took courses that forever changed my perspective on the world and how I view things, and these have inspired me to be better and to create narratives around them. These courses, that originally felt unrelated to one of my possible dreams have, in the end, played a vital role, and had I not given myself grace to keep an open mind I would not have taken them. I don’t know where I would be now, had I been too focused on one of the possible dreams.
This lesson is one that I have taken with me beyond the degree. Even now as I work toward a goal I keep my options open.
The truth is, sometimes what a career is in our minds, even after plenty of research, is not always the reality. We need to grant ourselves permission to see that and re-evaluate where we want to end up. We should never stay on a path if it isn’t what we want just because we have worked so hard to get there. But, that does not mean the effort was in vain. Every step forward we take is shaping us, guiding us to where we are happy. And sometimes the career isn’t exactly what we thought, but we still push forward and learn as much as we can and it is still where we want to be.
Whatever stage we are at, there is always room for growth and change. Regardless of where you are in a degree or a career, if you have an opportunity to try something new—if it is something you want to seek out, then you should never feel that by doing it you are throwing away any work you have put in. Instead, it is a chance to make that work pay off, even more than you may have ever thought possible.
AU taught me a lot of things, the courses, the connections, everything pushed me to be better—pushed me to seek further, and to strive for what I want. To never settle. But, it also taught me to keep my options open—to never put the blinders on and, while working forward, never be afraid to take the trail that looks like it might stray, because you just never know what incredible sights you might see.